KAYENTA, ARIZONA – On April 16-17, Eve’s Fund co-sponsored a suicide prevention program for 80 students at Monument Valley High School in Kayenta, Arizona.
The Native H.O.P.E. (Helping our People Endure) program was offered in partnership with Native PRIDE, a non-profit organization that offers culture-based programs.
Dr. Clayton Small, CEO of Native PRIDE, led the two-day event. Fifteen adult facilitators were also on hand, including mental health professionals, prevention specialists, school counselors, social workers, and traditional practitioners.
During the event, students were placed in nine clans (teams), where they got acquainted and shared openly about suicide prevention, substance abuse prevention, violence and bullying prevention, and grief and loss.
Native youth are the most at-risk among all races in the U.S. for these challenges. These unhealthy behaviors are passed down to the next generation in Native families and made worse by the impact of historical trauma and colonization.
The Native HOPE curriculum provides safety and a sense of belonging for young people to have conversations with their peers and provide support for each other, hopefully breaking the cycle of unhealthy behaviors through awareness and healing.
This peer counseling process is powerful. Research reveals that peer influence is much greater than that of parents and teachers. Using this approach, eight out of 10 suicides can be prevented by youth intervening with caring and compassion, as well as making referrals to adults and programs.
The students at Monument Valley High School recently lost a female senior to homicide; this program gave them a time and place to process their grief. Four students also gave powerful testimonies about their own depression and suicide attempts due to deaths and loss of parents and relatives, bullying by peers, and domestic violence in their families.
Their stories opened the door for all students to discuss their personal connections to these stories and find comfort in knowing they are not alone and it is okay to ask for help.
The MVHS students made commitments to continue their healing journey by signing up to join support groups and start a Native HOPE youth council to sponsor ongoing prevention and leadership activities.
Other co-sponsors of this event included Kayenta Community Counseling, Kayenta Domestic Violence Program, and Monument Valley High School.